Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Big Deal About Education




Education is a big deal to people.  It’s big enough for parents to shell-out thousands of dollars to a university, and big enough for students to rack up tens of thousands in debt in order to obtain a college degree.  If it is that big of a deal, then it only makes sense that the church would take an interest in students and parents.  I’m in that parent role of seeing my own kids come and go into college.  Taking an interest in students by talking to them about their classes, degree programs, plans for post-graduation, and helping them to make sense of their education is a huge opportunity for the church to guide young people in forming a healthy view of school and in developing a solid Christian worldview.  Just sending kids off and hoping for the best isn’t the best approach to either education or the Christian life.  The following are some realities of student thought, and some ways we as the church can help them as they go through their education.

               Students look at education as a big deal because they tend to view it as instrumental in getting a good job, and going to college as a place to have fun. So, it really matters to them to obtain the degree so that they can have a rewarding, secure, and comfortable life. It is not very often that I have heard students talk about the intrinsic value of education, but only in terms of the advantages an undergraduate degree will have for them. Yet, a college education affords the chance to be shaped into seeing a broad perspective of the world and become productive members of society and responsible citizens. In other words, education has the potential to have life-long worth even if a student never attains a high level job.

                More than just obtaining information, knowledge of a subject, and a certain skill set, a good, well-rounded education can instill necessary critical thinking abilities and an expansive understanding of the world that will serve a student for a lifetime. So, rather than school being only a series of hoops to jump through in order to obtain respect, security, and a comfortable lifestyle, it truly has value in and of itself.

               One of the great privileges of getting to know and talk with students is helping them to think through the value of their education from a Christian perspective, to see how their major studies and degree programs used for God can impact the world, and how they can take all their acquired knowledge and make sense of it through biblical categories. In doing this, we can help redeem a college education from only being a means to an end in a pragmatic society.

Here are some questions I typically ask students concerning education and work:
--How do you understand the working world?
--Do you see being a student as a calling? Why, or why not?
--Do you view a "secular" job as a calling? Why, or why not?
--How do you, or can you, connect your faith and your education?
--What do you think is the meaning and purpose of work?
--How does being a student reflect the nature and character of God?
--How is God transforming you through being in college?
--Can you think the thought that God wants to use your job as a means of sanctification?
--What ethical challenges do you face as a student?
--How does your education help you to be a better person?

               What I am laying out here is a view of church, let alone education, which, seems to me, is necessary.  In other words, is church just a place to go and attend worship services?  Or, is church made up of forgiven people who seek to help one another redeem their lives in the world in which they live?  If so, relationships are imperative.  If this is all such a big deal, let’s show it by investing relational capital, and not just money alone, into young people’s lives.

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